IN THE BATHROOM MIRROR
Day 5 Ranchita to Anza Borrego
Miles today:26 cumulative:107
I awake with the sunrise, the basketball hoop I sleep under belongs to a guy named Rocko., he pulls his truck in next to my tent. He seems to be ok with me being here, in his front yard, just asks who I am. Had a rough night he tells me. Ranchita is the high point of my journey for the next month or so, 4,000 ft in 4 days. It is windy on this desert plateau today. Just before the road descends to the desert I run across a home with dozens of shrines lining the road.
A sign reads: St. Maurice´s Shangrila. There is a row of 50 model houses, a tiny city on the hill, Christmas decorations, bulbs, wreaths, a plastic Santa Claus, glass mosaics, strange figurines, plaster animals with the heads switched around, and hand painted copies of the Lascaux caves in France, mainly of bulls. Maurice is a madman or he is a genius, and then I see his church. He is a genius. Or at least he his smart enough to have a good sense of humor.
Outside his little white church, two porcelain Chinamen stand guard, bowing to passers by, flanked by their own persona monster trucks. Inside the church is a glass poodle, pink, with rhinestone eyes. Kaleidoscope eyes. Outside, a plastic tyrannosaurus rex scream at the gate. The cross from the steeple is in the dinosaur´s mouth. Crunch. The poodle with the rhinestone eyes is next.
Down Montezuma Valley road, 10 miles on an 8% grade. More blind corners, I am not moving to the outside corner as much, just running around them. Why have we not been hit yet? Green valleys of house sized boulders are soon replaced by steep brown canyons and more blind corners, it is cold in the shade, the wind blows. Below I see the desert for the first time. A dramatic moment in the movie. There is a brown haze from the heat, blowing sand, and a nearby fire, beyond that the white haze of Salton Sea. In the middle of this fog a black mountain rises like the castle of an evil king, one of the many tests for our hero. Dramatic music plays. A journey within a journey. It is like this everyday. But first, a quick stop in a friendly village.
Borrego Springs is an Oasis town. Great effort has been made to plant green grass and palm trees, to tame the wilderness, the wild beast, man against nature, western expansion and all that, make it suitable for retiring, golf courses and trailer houses.
At Jiberto´s Mexican Restaurant the face of Jesus is etched in the bathroom mirror. If you line your face up right, you can see his eyes over yours, his mouth, his nose. Yes, I am Jesus Christ, but I don´t think that´s what they mean. They got it right but only by accident. You can be Jesus Christ in Jiberto´s Mexican Retaurant´s bathroom, but can you remember that when you walk out the door? Can you remember it next week when someone shows you hate? Can you remember it when you are afraid, when you are in pain, when you want to hurt someone?
Can you remember what you saw in that bathroom mirror, can you remember what that means? If not you, then who will it be? Jesus. Buddha. Ocean.
I get hard looks sometimes, like I am dangerous. I think, from now on, when people ask me what my cause is, I will say that I am collecting scalps. I should really buy a machete if I am serious about this. I know a Bowie knife would be much more efficient, but I have always preferred drama over efficiency. My war cry will take a little work, as of today I don't think anyone would take me very seriously, or maybe I would start laughing or something, and I should let my hair get a little more greasy. I´m not dirty enough, a few more days and I will be. Red paint all over my face. Chief Red Cloud. And on my cart I will display the scalps from long sticks that I find in the desert. How did I go from Jesus to Red Cloud? There must be balance. Amazing what happens when you don´t censor your thoughts.
Passing by the last palm trees, a golf course, beautiful buildings, abandoned, decaying. With perfect light bathing the whole plain in blues and purples. I wonder if I am the only one who sees these colors this way. What would you see, would you notice the buildings or the trees that I do? I know that color is not a fixed thing, it is subjective, as all things are. Most, I think, watch the sunset, but I am watching for what comes after. The subtlety. The cool tones instead of the warm ones. The first stars. That transition to the infinite. The tearing of the veil.
On the other side of the mountains clouds are boiling, washing up to the edge and spilling back towards the ocean, all the places I have walked are in its wake. I am on the sands of the desert now.
The Borrego airport is several miles out of town, all of the colors are gone and I could use some coffee. Patrick Maley asks me questions in a thick Boston accent and buys me a Coors. If I am on a search for wisdom, what wisdom do you have to give me? He is quiet for the first time in 20 minutes, he searches the memory of his life. His wife has many quick comments about kindness and brushing your teeth and the like, the usual, the obvious, but Patrick has something for me. After a long silence he says, If you ever go to jail (long silence), be sure you have some friends. On the inside, for cracking heads? I am assuming. No, just to talk to. He speaks from experience, from pain, I´ll take these words of wisdom. Then he forgets his prison years and goes back to his rib-eye steak, he gets one every week out here at the airport.
Another couple nearby asks questions and smiles. They have many regrets in their lives. I tell them that I do not. They know this, that is why they are smiling.
Back on the road the moon is almost full, a calm night clear sky, my legs are light, I record a monologue about my entry in the presidential election, evolution, ego. I speak to my dog in Slovak. I play harmonica and sing in tongues. The wind picks up, Cosmo is tired, I have to listen to her. We camp in the sand and the brush , and fall asleep without thinking about the day.